As most of you know, my oldest daughter is profoundly Autistic and I often share lessons we learn from our journey as her parents. Something I do not talk about very often, however, is that my only son, my 15-year-old firstborn, has Asperger Syndrome. Although there are some similarities with their conditions from time to time, the two of them are on completely different plains and it is really like comparing apples and oranges.
Cadence is limited in a lot of ways and has an intellectual disability that holds her back. Colton, however, is absolutely brilliant. He can retain more information in his brain than anyone I know. If you’re playing trivia, he’s the guy you want on your team. Sometimes I literally have no idea how he knows what he knows. Intelligence isn’t the issue with Aspergers. Rather, people with Aspergers can have a lot of difficulty with social interactions, a restricted range of interests or repetitive behaviors, can struggle with transitions and sometimes exhibit OCD behaviors.
These factors cause Colton to be unique for sure. He is a very concrete thinker, doesn’t like change and has no filter. If he thinks it, it is probably coming out of his mouth. This causes me to be on high alert when we are in public because the kid never meets a stranger and will start talking to anyone about his current interests; which just happen to be, for the time being anyway: German culture, world economies and politics. He wants to be President one day so he can “fix the country.” Colton 2040! Make America Follow The Rules Again!
The kid is quirky. There’s no way around it. It is what it is and it is who he is. Quirky with a capital Q. He doesn’t like to be with other teenagers, but likes hanging out with adults. He isn’t interested in anything that teenagers are interested in (German culture anyone?) and is a bona fide germophobe. Quirky.
I homeschool this kid because it works best for him. He doesn’t like to go many places, but lately he’s been thinking about the future and wants to learn some life skills. He’s got laundry and various house cleaning duties down pat, so he has moved on to shopping. He wants to learn how to buy groceries (not just organize the shelves like he did as a little boy) and then learn to cook. So the kid and I are at the grocery store the other day with his collared shirt buttoned all the way to the top (because tshirts are for inside and collared shirts are for going out an ALL buttons must be buttoned) and I explain that you have to check the date on the eggs and make sure they aren’t broken. Can he go get me 2 dozen please? The concrete thinker that he is intently inspects every. single. egg. He pulls each one out of the carton and looks at them from all angles. He’s obedient…I’ll give him that. I pretend that’s how you’re supposed to do it.
But then something really cool happens. I get to the cashier and I explain various forms of payment and start to put the groceries on the belt and he puts his hand on my arm and says, “I got it mom. You don’t have to do that.” I see my quirky kid take responsibility. As the checker is bagging things, he proceeds to put all the bagged groceries in the cart. At the van, he says, “you get in the van…I’ll take care of all of this.” So I sent down in the AC (because it’s 9 million degrees in SC) while my quirky kid demonstrates servanthood to his Momma. On the way home we talk about learning to drive. He says he really has no interest because he doesn’t have a need to go many places, but he will learn if it will help me for him to run errands. I see my quirky kid willing to sacrifice his own comfort zone for another. When we arrive home, he sends me in the house so that he can do the heavy lifting and says to me, “you work so hard, Mom.” My quirky kid shows gratitude.
But I thik the neatest thing that happened on this trip was when I ran into a friend on the way out and stopped to talk for a moment. He waits patiently for me…but then I see him start to walk off out of the corner of my eye. He was moving toward an elderly gentlemen and I start paying attention because, as I said earlier, no filter. I see from the cap the man is wearing that he is a veteran. And then it happened. My tall lanky kid thrust out his hand and gave the old timer a firm man to man handshake, leaned in close to make sure the elderly man could hear him, and said, “Thank you for your service to our country sir.” I thought I would turn into a puddle on the spot. I held back the tears then, but I can’t right now as I recall how proud I was.
That day actually brought me a lot of relief. As moms of quirky kids we want them to fit in so much. We want them to be a part of something bigger, to be on a team, to engage well with others, to have friends. Well, Colton doesn’t have a lot of those things, but that day showed me that the boy has character. That he is obedient. That he takes initiative. That he has convictions he isn’t ashamed of. That he has gratitude and that he recognizes sacrifice and service. And it occured to me that Colton won’t be quirky in Heaven. In the meanwhile, until he gets there, he is laying up incredible treasures for his eternal reward. We learn from the Bible that this old world really isn’t our home at all. Our citizenship is in Heaven and that is when life gets really good. This current life is just a vapor. A passing moment compared to all that lies ahead. And that is comforting.
At the end of the day I may be raising a kid that is quirky and doesn’t fit in, but this is only temporary. It’s far more important that he be godly, have character and know how to do Kingdom work…because that stuff lasts forever. He can take his character and his rewards to heaven when he goes. The God who made Colton has a purpose for his life here on earth and it’s more important for him to find that purpose through pursuing godliness than pursing any other thing.
To all the Christian parents with quirky kids…be encouraged. This is temporary. And the number of friends your kid has is not the measure of who your kid is. Do we still strive to help our kids be well rounded and to function in the real world? Yes we do. But don’t let that rule you, drive you or beat you down. Focus on character and godliness so that your kid will know eternal victories that far outway the trials they face now.
Colton blew me away with his character that day. Is he still quirky? You know it. But it looks like God likes quirky and plans to put it to good use.
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